round hay bales
MORE HAY NEEDED: Hay may be in short supply if harsh winter conditions continue well into spring.

Stretch short hay supply: ‛Feed less, need less’

Here are some tips on extending hay supplies over a harsh winter.

As winter feeding season continues with a forecast of arctic weather in February, cow herd owners face dwindling hay supplies.

How are beef producers to feed their herd? Eric Bailey, University of Missouri beef nutritionist, gives the short answer: “Feed less, need less.”

In practice, that takes management decisions and exact math.

Time to sell
The “need less” part means selling cows. That makes fewer mouths to feed. Selling some cows may be beneficial, as it puts stocking rate in sync with carrying capacity of the farm.

If a cow isn’t carrying a calf, she shouldn’t still be in the herd. Pregnancy checks are a starting point.

Cows with bad attitudes or poor production should go down the road. Again, it’s fewer mouths to feed.

“No cow should be given a second chance,” Bailey says. If she fails to conceive in your farming system, she’ll likely fail on retry. Keeping bad cows builds a mediocre herd.

In his MU Extension talks to farmers, the nutrition specialist goes beyond talking vitamins and minerals. He shares management tips that cut costs.

He urges dealing with big problems first. Profits are the point of feeding cows.

What to feed
In hay feeding, match the amount fed to the body needs of the cow. Here’s where matchups become important. Is it an 800-pound bale or a 1,200-pound bale? Is it a 1,000-pound cow or half again more in body weight?

Rations are based on the body weight of a cow. General rule: Hay needed is 3% of body weight per day.

In an example, Bailey uses a 1,000-pound bale and a 1,400-pound cow. With easy math, rounded off, each cow needs 40 pounds of hay a day. That lets one bale feed 22 cows. But not all hay is the same quality. Hay testing allows fine-tuning needs.

A midgestation cow needs a ration of 55% TDN (total digestible nutrients). A cow that calved and nurses a calf needs 65% TDN.

That midgestation cow needs only 7% crude protein. The lactating cow needs 11% CP.

Then there’s hay waste to calculate. Feeding cows requires precision to stretch hay supplies.

Extend your supply
Here are some tips to make your hay supply last:

• Roll out only a day’s worth of hay at a time. Then cut hours of access to that hay. With three hours of access, a cow wastes 6 pounds of hay a day. Given 24 hours, she wastes nearly 14 pounds a day.

• Feeding less hay may take buying and feeding supplement. Needed feed can be made in part by plentiful low-cost byproduct feeds. Those are feeds left in making biofuels, whether ethanol or soyoil. A ration fed at 1% of body weight can be half grain (such as corn) and half byproduct.

Before he came to Missouri, Bailey used the MU Extension weekly byproduct feed report published on the MU AgEBB (Ag Extension Bulletin Board) website, agebb.missouri.edu. Look it up on the web and subscribe.

Feeding management starts with knowing how many days of hay are left. Then, herd owners must know what it takes to maintain different animals in the herd.

Source: University of Missouri Extension

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